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NATPE: Andy Duncan says C4 will merge with Five

Andy Duncan told NATPE delegates that Channel 4 and Five will ultimately merge. Duncan departed as CEO of the UK commercially-funded public service broadcaster at the end of last year and said the unison of Channel 4 and Five ‘will happen at some point’.

The two UK commercial broadcasters have flirted with each other before. Last year Gerhard Zeiler, the CEO of Five owner RTL, said a merger had ‘industrial logic’ and said an intelligent debate was needed about consolidation in the UK TV sector. UK communications regulator Ofcom has also floated the idea.

Adam Crozier was appointed CEO of ITV, the UK’s largest commercial broadcaster, yesterday and Duncan said: “Whether ITV needs to get more international is a big question. The international agenda will be a big question for the new CEO.”

Duncan also took a swipe at the BBC in the NATPE session. He said the UK’s largest public service broadcaster was open to the idea of partnerships , but not at making them happen. “I also think the BBC has over-expanded in some ways,” he said, citing its deal to buy travel guide business Lonely Planet as an example.

He added that his failed attempt to bring Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide closer together ran into political problems in that the BBC license fee could come under pressure should the Conservative party win the next election. “The BBC saw that, potentially, it could be hit and have to share resources twice,” he said.

Duncan gave no hints as to his next move. He said he would firm up plans in the months to come.